All of a sudden, the Detroit Tigers’ AL Central lead doesn’t seem so insurmountable.
The Tigers look to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season when they wrap up a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
The Tigers (81-49) have dropped four straight following Saturday’s 8-5 loss to the Indians. Detroit’s lead in the Central was reduced to four games over Minnesota after the Twins beat the Chicago White Sox 8-7 in 11 innings.
The Tigers led the division by 10 games on Aug. 7 and have led by at least five games since July 20. However, they have dropped 13 of 18, beginning with a five-game losing streak Aug. 8-13.
“We’re just in one of those little streaks right now,” said manager Jim Leyland, who warned his team “to step it up” after Friday’s loss. “You pitch good and you don’t hit or you hit and don’t pitch good. That’s not a combination conducive to winning games. It’s going to happen when you play 162.”
Craig Monroe homered Saturday for the Tigers, who have averaged just 3.3 runs during their 18-game skid while allowing an average of 4.4.
“We’re in a bit of a drought right now,” said starter Justin Verlander, who gave up a career-high eight runs in just 4 2-3 innings. “I don’t think anyone here is scared of anything.”
Cliff Lee (10-9, 4.61 ERA) will look to lead Cleveland to its fifth straight win overall. He allowed three runs in six innings of Tuesday’s 5-2 loss at Kansas City and is 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA over his last seven starts.
Lee, whose career-best 18 wins last season were the most by a Cleveland left-hander since 1988, is 3-4 with a 4.66 ERA in 12 career starts against the Tigers. He has faced them three times this season, going 0-3 with a 4.01 ERA.
Detroit will counter with Kenny Rogers (13-6, 4.14), who won his second straight start Tuesday, allowing four hits in seven innings of a 4-0 win over the White Sox. The 41-year-old left-hander had been 0-3 with a 6.37 ERA in six second-half starts before a 4-2 victory over Texas on Aug. 17.
In his previous three seasons, Rogers has gone 29-12 with a 3.87 ERA before the All-Star break and 16-13 with a 4.80 ERA after. But he insists that he isn’t worried about tiring in the second half of the season.
“I know I’ve won games in September before, or August, so it’s not a big deal,” he said. “I just want to start winning some games in October.”
Rogers is 15-16 with a 5.40 ERA in 54 career appearances, including 31 starts, against the Indians. He has faced them five times this season, going 2-2 with a 6.15 ERA.
Rogers and Lee met on May 12 in Cleveland. Rogers gave up two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win, while Lee gave up five runs and a season-high 11 hits and was charged with the loss.